Tom talks nerdy to Cara Santa Maria about monkeys, prosthetic hands and brain machine interfaces.

Speaking of Research founder Tom Holder was  recently interviewed by the Huffington Post’s new science correspondent Cara Santa Maria for her blog “Talk Nerdy To Me” .

In her latest post Cara examines whether research performed on monkeys by a Chinese group with the aim of developing improved brain-machine interface technology to control a prosthetic hand is justifiable.

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It is worth noting that in addition to preventing the monkey from pulling the wires out of the electrodes by accident, the restraint chairs – in which the monkeys are only kept for short periods – also prevent the monkey from simply reaching out and grabbing the juice, obliging it to use its brain instead.

This is field of research we have discussed on several occasions since Speaking of Research was founded, most recently in a post last October when we took a look at a successful early clinical trial of a brain machine interface developed through research in monkeys by scientists at the University of Pittsburgh, which allowed a paralyzed man to control a robotic arm.

We also discussed research being undertaken at Duke University , where scientists are developing a system that they hope will allow patients to feel what their prosthetic limb is touching, allowing for much finer control and dexterity. The electrodes implanted in the brains of the human patients are essentially the same as those used in the monkey studies, and they are painless once implanted, and are implanted under anesthesia – general anesthesia for monkeys but usually local anesthetic  for humans (so the patient can help position the implant).